Beach House occupy one of those weird legacy positions which up until recently Glass Animals also did; are they a big cult band, or a small mainstream one? Heat Waves resolved that question for Dave Bayley and co., but for Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally the optics are less clear.
They have the kind of streaming real estate that every band sharing their arc would kill for, but equally could arguably walk down any street in their home city of Baltimore, or anywhere else, and have no fear of recognition.
And yet, such is their confidence that in a world where being a performer seems increasingly more about understanding your limitations, their eighth record is entirely self-produced and runs to almost 90 minutes. These are not the actions of people feeling the heat of needing to meet yours or anybody else’s expectations.
Once Twice Melody isn’t so much a concept album as a book split into four chapters which, in the eyes of their creators at least, offer some sort of mutually distinct narrative, Legrand describing the shift with: ‘It felt like a larger, newer kind of way of looking at our music, cinematic, literary.’
Cynics might claim that’s simply aiming at a full house for the arts from players who’ve always preferred the indistinct, but the evidence suggests that in the three years it’s taken since the gossamer lightness of 7, they’ve managed to capture a quality they’ve rarely snagged before: thrills.
The titular opener has the same vaguely porous, analog synth feel, Legrand can still do a fine impression of Letitia Sadler and the whole thing sounds like the best song which never made it onto Moon Safari, but somehow in a way that’s impossible to describe – as you might sense here – it’s grander, more direct, more in this world than the next.
Electing to give up the shadows is as ambitious as stretching out the experience, but in many places the choice is justifiable as arguably its peaks constitute the pair’s finest work.
New Romance takes their dreamgaze to an apex, each of its respective elements blended like sonic witchcraft, whilst the child like gospel of Another Go Around finds Scally musing on a trip which was perfectly imperfect: ‘Another go tonight and the drugsw ere just right/But the one you need isn’t there.’
It would be impossible to ignore both the lysergic and metaphysical influences on this music, but equally those moments of realness prick the bubble; Masquerade comes with intent and emotional austerity whilst also sounding like it would be great whilst appropriately fucked up in a club. This house of mirrors effect means too that the hand holding bubblegum pop of Finale isn’t actually the end.
It’s not all pupils like dinnerplates in the endless sunset, and maybe it shouldn’t be. Sunset plods, and Illusion Of Forever slips back towards the tendency for unconscious recycling which has periodically blighted their work.
Once Twice Melody lands Beach House in a densely woven musical pattern entirely of their own making. Throughout Legrand and Scally’s creative partnership, their essence has usually been opaque and, whilst offering the longest exposure to it ever here, it’s still impossible to divine whether it’s reached a definitive point.
We shouldn’t be surprised at its dark centre, but then if you’re one of the most successful cult bands of your generation, neither can we accept anything less.